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What are county lines and what do they mean for dealers and addicts in the UK?

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Over the past 20 years in the UK, there has been a steady but dramatic increase in the production, sale, and use of all manner of illicit drugs. These range from crack cocaine to heroin, which are consumed and sold around the country. However, in the past the main bulk of these drug activities have taken place in major cities and urban areas; this has now started to change as dealers look to exploit new customer bases in rural areas.

This, in turn, has led to an insidious and new kind of trafficking of drugs to these areas, known as County Lines. In short, County Lines is the process used by gangs in which they coerce children into transporting and selling drugs in the area the gang does not originate from. For example, a gang in south London will send a smaller group of children and enforcers to a rural location with high demand and low supply, such as Devon, in order to sell large quantities of drugs at street prices.

Why use children?

There is not one single answer for this, rather a series of different factors one must consider in order to understand why these children want to sell these drugs, and why the gangs would want to employ them. First to consider is the ever-increasing levels of child poverty (and overall poverty in the UK over the past 10 years). This has led to not just the increase in demand for hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, but also to entire families struggling financially and becoming unemployed or even homeless. This desperation for money amongst some sectors of the UK’s most vulnerable families helps provide a steady supply of recruits for drug gangs.

In addition, the lack of family cohesion seen across Britain’s poorest areas also leads to the children wanting to feel part of a family unit and the drug gangs use this in order to further coerce and convince them into doing their bidding. For the dealers, using children is a boon as they are less likely to come under as significant levels of scrutiny as using an adult and juvenile punishments for those under 18 are not nearly as harsh as they are for adults.

In addition, children can be easily paid less than their adult counterparts due to their inexperience in these transactions and overall younger children are easier to convince and coerce into taking risks for the benefit of the gang. So much so that as this is being written, a gang who operated in this fashion has just been sentenced in a landmark case using modern anti-slavery laws.

What this means for addicts

It doesn’t matter if you are an addict or not; the use of children in order to sell their gangs’ drugs and commit acts of violence on their behalf should disgust most people. Worryingly, the trade brought in using county lines is estimated to be worth a staggering £50M a year. Meaning that a significant quantity of drugs on the market could have employed child slave labor in their production and distribution. Which should bring further ethical questions to mind in anyone associated with these substances.

If you live in a rural part of the UK then this is even more likely to be the case as these gangs specifically target rural areas in order to attract less attention to their activities and target the customers in these low competition areas. Whilst you may not be ethically concerned over your drug use from a personal perspective, the children likely to be involved may give you some pause for reflection. They risk arrest, imprisonment and even injury and death from rival gangs in order to make the leaders of these drug gangs money.

What are the police doing?

The police reaction to this threat has been relatively slow due to lack of intimate knowledge of how these gangs operate with estimates of these activities starting around 2011. However, due to large amounts of media coverage over the past 2 years, the police have been quick to identify and monitor known drug gangs for any evidence that they have been operating a County Line using children. There are a number of additional charges these dealers now face including the aforementioned case where the defendants were convicted on charges relating to modern slavery due to the use of unregulated child labor.

However, some sectors of the press have been rather critical of police response, particularly in regards to the use of children. Many ask themselves how police and social services could allow these vulnerable children to be used as labour with supposedly nobody being any the wiser on their end. Many experts agree that it is a failure on both of their parts as budgets for outreach programs and risk monitoring has both been cut by the incumbent administration.

Ultimately a further reaching and community-focused approach is needed to ensure that these children are protected from exploitation by these drug gangs in the future.

If you are an addict, you may not consider the ethical implications of the drugs you are purchasing. However, if you can sympathize with the plight of these children then perhaps it can help give you the motivation to turn over a new leaf and kick your old habits. If that isn’t a good enough incentive, being caught as part of a county line employing children could have some incredibly serious legal consequences and that alone should help you steer clear of that kind of illicit behavior.If Clarity Thailand can help take you away from these sources of negativity and help show you a better way to live your life drug-free, please click the following link to explore our services.

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